Sunday, August 31, 2014

The train to Mt. Savage...steam, cinders, belching black smoke and all.

Today we rode the steam engine train from Cumberland to Frostburg, via Mt. Savage. It was a similar engine and the exact rails that George and his family probably rode many times to Cumberland, 16 miles away.

The trip took 1 hour to go from Cumberland to Frostburg. Mt. Savage was a little more than halfway between the two. The view from the mountainside of the town was awesome! As we boarded the train we went through a car that had open windows - the mail car. The mail car was where the railway postal clerks grabbed the bags of mail from each station and sorted it into new bags before the next one to send the mail on its way. It was also the car that was the target of train robbers, since the safe with the gold and payroll money was transported in this car. The postal clerks were issued 38 revolvers as part of their uniforms to protect the United States Mail.

Looking through the open sides of the car, we could inhale the black, belching, sulpher-smelling, acrid smoke all along the ride. The cinders from the stack floated through the air and landed on our heads and faces. The leaves fell profusely from the trees  as we steamed through the wooded mountainside. Riding along the tracks, we rocked back and forth in a comforting way. When I closed my eyes I could imagine my grandfather riding this same way, to Cumberland to visit his girl, Christina Miller, to ride as a soldier into battle...incredible!

When we disembarked from the train in Frostburg, Jeff and I visited the Thrasher Carriage Museum that was across from the depot. It was rather eerie, since the first thing we saw upon entering was an open hearse wagon with a simple pine casket in front of it. This wagon was typical of the type of hearse they had in 1850's. George's father, John Ordner, died in 1858. I have a copy of the receipt for his funeral and this wagon was probably similar to what his father was carried in his coffin to the cemetery in Mt. Savage. (My photo didn't turn out of the hearse and pine coffin, or I would have posted it! Hopefully the one on Jeff's camera turned out.)

After we rode the train back to Cumberland, we decided to hike up to the east of the city to try and find the other two houses that George and my g-g-grandmother, Dena, lived in while in Cumberland. The first one was at 3 Davidson Street. We hiked across Baltimore street (the main historic business district) and up about 4 blocks to Davidson. The hill to the house was STEEP! It was really hard to walk up the sidewalk, almost vertical. The view was unbelievable though! Two guys were working on their house across the street. We told them what we were looking for and they said that the vacant lot across from them was probably the house. It was much older than his 1925 built house. Wouldn't you believe it though, they had just torn the house down a month ago! Missed it by a few weeks! They told us the old woman who lived there had died, it took a week to find out that she had died and she had 22 cats in the house. How the city condemned the house and tore it down last month.

View from where the house at 3 Davidson was
 before being torn down in July 2014.

I believe that George and Dena moved from their house on N. Mechanic street that was close to their son, Charlie, after he left Cumberland to move to Minnesota. The neighborhood was probably better up on the hill. (The view sure was!) George, who was working at the railroad depot, was still just 6 blocks from his work. They moved in 1901 to a new address, 81 1/2 Decatur Street, just one block down and a two blocks to the left from their house on Davidson. After walking the street to the houses, I believe they moved because the hike up the hill was hard for George every day. After all, he was 60 years old by this time and it was hard for us!

Their house on Decatur is the house that George died in on June 14, 1904. My cousin, Dick Ordner, has a receipt for their rent in April of 1904 which was paid May 2, in the amount of $13.00. A hundred years ago, rent for a really nice house was WAAAAY cheaper than today!

This house was likely George and Dena's last residence in 1904.
George died in this house.
Once again, it was an incredible day. To think we are finding the paths that they walked everyday, the places where they lived, and the views that they experienced 100 years ago is so amazing!!!

Tomorrow, we are headed to Mt. Savage, the town where George Washington Ordner was born on February 22, 1843. We are meeting, Dennis Lashley, the president of the Mt. Savage Historical Society after the town's Labor Day parade. Dennis emailed me yesterday saying, "Look forward to meeting you. I think we have lots in common. Will explain when I see you." 

Intriguing...what will we discover tomorrow in Mt. Savage?
Until tomorrow....


  1. Thanks, Meredith! I'm really having fun tracking all this stuff down. I'm glad I took the time to come out here ;O)